About 90 Palestinian refugee children in remote West Bank schools recently joined art workshops sponsored by the public diplomacy program of the Australian Representative Office in Ramallah.
The workshops provided an opportunity for the children at remote schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East (UNRWA), which assists Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. They meant the children could experience painting, ceramics and sculpture.
For many of the students, it was the first time they had formally learnt about art and how to express themselves creatively.
"We always wanted to draw, but this workshop has taught us how," said 12-year-old Sumaya.
Australian Representative to the Palestinian Authority Jenny Grant-Curnow, accompanied by AusAid Project Manager, Tawfic Raad, and Public Affairs Officer, Lima Anfous, visited Al Shajneh school near Hebron. They spent the day sharing the kids' passion for art and answering their questions about Australia.
Ms Grant-Curnow said the art workshops reflect Australia's broader support to the UNRWA, which will receive $90 million through a five-year partnership arrangement.
"The workshops are a tangible way for Australia to extend our support to refugee children in rural areas," said Ms Grant-Curnow.
"Many of these children don't have access to a lot of art or music in their everyday curriculum; they had been using everyday items in their creations.
"One thing I noticed was that a popular aspect was the use of Australian themes and symbols. The children were keen to learn how to paint the Australian flag."
"Art encourages creativity," said Abdul Had Yaish, the artist who tutored the children. "It inspires self-expression and constructive thinking skills that can help children in these kinds of difficult circumstances."